One of the stars of the TV show I love, Supernatural, started a nonprofit devoted to good deeds called Random Acts. (They gave me an award last year! Thank you, Misha Collins and Michele.)

Another Supernatural star, Jared Padalecki, has been open about his struggles with mental health. I don’t know much about acting careers or television, but I’m guessing that this is a brave thing for an actor to do. He’s raised lots of money for mental health causes, and he’s encouraged people to ask for help when they need it and “always keep fighting.”

Now Random Acts is partnering with a couple of other nonprofits to create The SPNFamily Crisis Support Network, “where trained fans can help other fans deal with depression, self-injury, and addiction.”

Supernatural is in its eleventh television season. Not a ton of people watch it, and the people who do watch it are fanatics. It’s a show about fighting demons, and unsurprisingly, it’s attracted a lot of people who have some pretty real psychological demons to fight.

Fans of science fiction and fantasy stories have always enjoyed a strong connection. It can be profound. On my first date with Mr. Donovan, we talked about fantasy novels, and it turned out we adored the same obscure sword-and-sorcery writer.
Reader, not only did I marry him, I convinced him to propose to me only three weeks later. Is there a better litmus test than the stories that you love?

I’ve always been touched by the loyalty that Supernatural fans show to one another. At the only Supernatural convention I went to (I said I would go to only one, but I am wavering mightily), I met a girl in the hotel lobby who was crying. She had no money and the fellow fan she had met online, who had offered to let her stay in her room, hadn’t come to the convention after all due to a family tragedy.

This girl had been living in Tucson with no running water, which means she was even poorer than me when I lived in Tucson. You could say, “well, she shouldn’t have spent the money on a convention, then,” but your soul needs filling, too.

The girl had a history of depression and suicidal ideation. Mr. Donovan and I talked with her for a long time. We bought her breakfast and gave her a little cash and told her to call us if she needed to sleep in our hotel room.

When I saw her that evening, another group of fans had bought her dinner and she had a place to say. She was fine and having a good time.

The U.S. needs to do more to take care of mentally ill and at-risk people — to do more to take care of each other — but we don’t have to wait for lawmakers. We can help more at any time. I want to be one of the crisis support volunteers.

This is fandom at its finest. Heroic stories bring people together and they take care of one another. It’s no accident that the most popular hashtag for Supernatural on Twitter is #SPNfamily.

It’s really something for the stars of a TV show to be so connected to their fans. I also think it’s the future. We’re moving back to more intimate and collaborative ways of storytelling, and stronger communities and bonds of love are formed as a result.

To support the “You Are Not Alone” campaign, you can buy this fine tee shirt, which features Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins together. Fans frequently imagine their characters together, in stunning detail. Do Ackles and Collins care? No. They are happy to use that as a hook to raise money for a good cause. As my friend Michele says, They know exactly what they are doing.